For the past week there was a lot of buzz about how disappointed folks were with legendary singer Stevie Wonder when it was announced that he would be doing a special fundraising show for the Israeli military IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) in Los Angeles on December 6th. Many had come to view Wonder as a champion of Human Rights and felt him performing to raise money for Israel’s military of all organizations, was the height of hypocrisy.
For starters there has been a cultural campaign encouraging artists not to perform in Israel because of the ongoing conflict with Palestine. You can read about that boycott HERE. Granted Wonder wasn’t performing in Israel, but considering the gist of the cultural boycott is around the use of Israel’s military to oppress Palestinians, many felt Wonder had crossed the line and being insensitive. Word of him performing for IDF really caused upset given the recent bombings that have gone on in Gaza under Operation Pillar where dozens of children were killed.
If that wasn’t enough, recently the social media director of the Israeli Army, Sacha Dratwa took a photograph of himself in blackface, mocking President Obama.. You can read about that HERE
On social media, many raised the questions if Wonder actually knew about the IDF organization and what they stood for or if he was under some sort of pressure to perform. Whatever the case, it didn’t look good as folks from all over the world started to raise a stink and send out petitions. Here’s what the Change.org Petition said:
We call on Stevie Wonder, as a conscientious American advocate for human rights and dignity not to support the Israeli Defense Force by performing at their gala fundraiser. In the face of over 60 years of Israeli colonization of Palestinian land and the disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people and in the wake of Israel’s latest violent aggression against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip– we ask you NOT to support the IDF. The IDF is an institution which promotes, enables, and protects Israel’s Apartheid regime. You were arrested in 1985 protesting South African Apartheid, now we ask you: please remember that apartheid is apartheid, whether it comes from White Afrikaaner settlers of South Africa or from Jewish Israelis in Israel. Desmond Tutu has recognized that Israel’s Apartheid is worse than South Africa’s– will you stand with us against apartheid and cancel your performance at the IDF fundraiser?
Another petition put out by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, called on Wonder to “Please be a ‘full-time lover’ of justice by standing on the right side of history and canceling your performance for the Israeli army.”
Late yesterday, there were news stories running in Jewish based publications like HAARETZ noting that Stevie Wonder is set to pull out of his performance. They note that Wonder’s representatives claim that he did not know the nature of the group, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, and that he believes such a performance would be incongruent with his status as a UN “Messenger of Peace,”You can read about that HERE
Some may say that Wonder was using his UN position as a weak excuse and that he should’ve taken a firmer stand condemning Israel military and the policies that govern it. Others are happy that he’s pulling out and hopefully will not back track or commit himself to do future fundraisers for IDF. It’s still a mystery to many of us as to why the IDF feel a need to host a a fund-raiser for the Israeli Army considering the billions we give to them each year via our tax dollars in military aid. Israel has the 4th largest army in the world and gets on average 3 billions dollars a year from the US. You can read about that HERE.
With Wonder pulling out, former Green Party VP candidate and activist Rosa Clemente raised a more challenging question. She released this statement via social media last night; “….all of you complaining about Stevie (Wonder) and asking about signing petitions, are you still rolling with the Obama Democratic administration that actually funds and supports Israel? I mean it’s not like he (Wonder) is making or implementing policy.”
Holding our public officials and the policies they support is where the real battle ground is..Stevie Wonder pulling out hasn’t changed our policies yet.. More pressure is needed.. In the meantime, here’s a song that was done in protest of Stevie Wonder’s initial decision to perform for the IDF. It’s done by a Palestinian singer known as Doc Jazz..